Feb 182017
 

In my previous post, How to save time and money for your craft business design needs, I described—among other items—how I used ordinary office software to design a custom photo album. In this post, you’ll see how the software design translated into reality when I assembled the parts of the album.

I began with two stacks of card stock, one in black for 5-inch x 6-inch pages, and another stack in ivory for 2-1/2 inch x 3-1/2 photo mats.

My best friend for adhering the photo mats to the pages is Scor-Tape because it’s strong, lasting and lightweight.

When I adhered the photo mats to the pages I really did not want to have to measure their location with a ruler, so I created a U-shaped card stock jig that helped me with consistency in placement.

To each page, I adhered a strip of printed paper for a splash of color. I cut a narrow length of card stock to serve as a temporary spacer between the photo mats and the location of the printed strip. This speeded up the placement process considerably.

I usually round the corners of the pages I add to any book or album; not only does this look more finished, in my opinion, but rounded corners tend not to curl or crease as easily as 90-degree corners do.

I punched the pages for insertion into the photo album using my We R Memory Keepers Cinch. I do have a Zutter Bind-it-All, but because the latter punches only six holes at a time, I find the Cinch works better for me for larger books. On the other hand, the Bind-it-All punches through thicker covers and more pages at a time than the Cinch, and its owire crimping produces a more rounded appearance. The Cinch punches both square holes and round holes, depending upon which version you purchase, while the Bind-it-All punches square holes only. Each binding tool, in other words, has its strong and weak points.

The cover of the album was created after the pages were completed. I began by gathering the papers and heavyweight book board, and cut them into appropriate sizes. The book board I use measures .082 inch in depth, which is thicker than I feel comfortable cutting with my Rotatrim Professional M18 rotary trimmer. Instead, I use the Zutter Kutter, which is designed specifically to cut through thick materials such as chipboard, book board, foam board, stacks of card stock and leather.

I layered all papers together the way my customer specified, covering the book board, and bound the album with a one-inch-diameter owire. I have discovered that the wider the diameter of the owire, the more trouble the Cinch or Bind-it-All have with crimping it. Too often, the owire ends up with a kink in it instead of being perfectly rounded. Sometime last year, I decided it was time to locate a commercial tool that is dedicated to owire binding. I discovered that MyBinding.com sells some of its equipment at a reduced cost if the box has been opened and the item inside is damaged in some way, but still is functional. In my case, some of the paint was chipped on a Tamerica DuraWire 450 Manual Twin Loop Wire Closer, but the tool itself worked perfectly in every way. I bought it at a seriously reduced cost, and find that it crimps consistently every time. These days I use both my Cinch and Bind-it-All for punching holes only; when they no longer punch well, I will likely replace them with a commercial punching tool.

The wire closer accommodates owire diameters from .24 inch to 1.25 inches.

My husband gave me his old tool chest, which is the perfect place to keep this rather large piece of equipment.

The front and back sides of the finished photo album are essentially the same, except for a floral embellishment on the front. Although I do use some purchased solid color papers for custom orders, I generally print papers from digital designs, and then seal them with Tim Holtz Distress Micro Glaze to make them water-resistant. For some of the papers whose white inner core edges I don’t want to be visible, I brush them with Tim Holtz Distress Ink.

The last item I add to an otherwise finished book or album is the cover embellishment. I crafted a yellow zinnia from 90 paper petals—nine layers in all—die cutting the petals with Spellbinders Create-a-Flower Zinnia. After the layers were adhered, I spray-misted them with Ranger Perfect Pearls Mists to give the flower a little shimmer.

I glued the flower to the cover, gave it 24 hours to dry, and shipped off the album.

As I mentioned in my previous post, creating a digital proof for custom orders is essential to making sure that both the customer and I are on the same page. I don’t have expensive design software, so I use ordinary office software to get the job done. It does add a few extra steps to the creation process, but in the end, I think everyone is happy.

In the comments below, describe a challenge you faced when you crafted a custom item, whether it was for an order or a gift.

© 2017 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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Feb 052017
 

Recently a customer asked me to design a photo album to commemorate her elderly mother’s birthday. She already had 2×3 mini photos, but was looking for a special album to display them. We settled on a spiral-bound album using digital papers she selected, and exchanged convos (short for “conversations,” or messages) for other aspects of the custom order, such as papers and accents.

As a small business owner who designs and crafts handmade books, I don’t have a large budget for design software. To save time and money—but mostly to ensure my customers and I are on the same page for custom orders—the use of digital proofs is critical. My solution? I use standard office software, Microsoft Office, to get the job done.

I developed a template in Microsoft Office Word that allows me to insert thumbnail images of digital papers. The template is nothing more than a table, with alternating rows for images and captions.

After I insert images into a copy of my template, I save it using a customer-specific file name. This allows me to edit the file later without affecting the original template. Then I save the file once more as a PDF file, which is a universal file format that anyone can use by downloading Adobe Acrobat Reader. Because the software flattens images so that they’re not as high resolution as the original images, this also helps to prevent distribution of them. This is important because I purchase digital papers from sellers who rightfully want to protect their intellectual rights.

After the customer selects digital papers, I create a proof in PowerPoint, outlining further choices that may need to be decided. If nothing else, providing a digital proof enables me to know that my buyer has approved the design. Then I can write a custom listing that the buyer uses to purchase the item from my Etsy shop.

In the images below, the customer needs to decide whether I should add a red or yellow handmade flower accent to the front cover. The floral image is clip art, so it serves an illustrative purpose but does not reflect either the exact placement or final appearance of the handmade paper flower I will create.

A proof image also gives the buyer a chance to review the inside cover page and approve it.

Even the inside pages require review. One image shows a pre-matted page for 2×3 photos, while the second page shows a decorative paper strip that might add a splash of color to a page. All these pages were designed using Microsoft PowerPoint.

Microsoft Office is useful for designing more than custom order options. You can use either Word or Excel to design your craft show booth space, and then add colored shapes for the different tables or fixtures inside it.

For the image below, I created an Excel workbook with a different worksheet for each booth layout. I changed the width of each row and column to .25 inch, then outlined the entire dimensions of a 12-foot wide by 9-foot deep space with a thick, dark line. Colored rectangles represent the different sizes of tables I own. It is easy to copy and paste the shapes from one location on a worksheet to another.

You can also create a scaled image of your booth space with Word by creating a table, but it takes more time to move the shapes around. Honestly, I thought it was easier with this method to print everything, cut it out with scissors, and go “old school” to design your booth space. You can then snap a picture with your smart phone, and take the phone with you to your show.

Have you ever applied to a craft show that requires sample images of your products? It’s easy to do using Microsoft Word. I simply insert images into a blank page, re-size them, and drag them to the desired location. Below is a product sample page I used for a recent application for a craft show, where I will sell my crocheted women’s accessories.

When I first began using office software for design purposes, I used Corel WordPerfect, as that is the first major software package I learned. In fact, ran a home-based desktop publishing company for 10 years using WordPerfect, serving local area businesses. I still have design templates from that program that I use, but am gradually migrating to Microsoft Office because it is more universal. I keep coming up with additional ways to use both packages for design applications for my craft business, and love to hear about the ways other people use them. How do you handle design issues for your craft business or hobby?

© 2017 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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Jan 262017
 

It’s not yet Valentine’s Day, but in every gift store, flower shop or Hallmark aisle you’ll see reminders. On Etsy, where handmade items are king, you’ll find heart motifs being featured everywhere (and in this post, too). Valentine’s Day is an international holiday when couples celebrate romance with candy, flowers, cards, candlelit dinners and other exchanges of affection. From Australia to Taiwan, in Around the World you can read about how Valentine’s Day is celebrated.

Butterflies and Heart Soaps, sold by thecharmingfrog, https://www.etsy.com/listing/71351221/butterflies-and-heart-soaps-butterfly

I was surprised to learn, however, that the origins of this annual holiday can be found in a pagan practice in ancient Rome. According to National Public Radio writer Arnie Seipel in The Dark Origins of Valentine’s Day, Valentine’s Day may have begun when “men hit on women by, well, hitting them.” Seipel explains that during the feast of Lupercalia, a goat and a dog were sacrificed, and their hides were used to whip women. For some strange reason, women were said to have believed this whipping would increase their fertility. The rite was followed up with a lottery in which men were paired up for the night with women—and sometimes longer, if the match was a good one.

Lupercalia Print, 5×7, sold by CaitlinMcCarthyArt, https://www.etsy.com/listing/191474289/lupercalia-print-5×7

Flash forward to the 3rd century, when the Emperor Claudius II executed two men named Valentine—one a priest and the other a bishop—resulting in their martyrdom which was subsequently commemorated by the Catholic Church on St. Valentine’s Day. When Pope Gelasius II combined St. Valentine’s Day with Lupercalia in the late 5th century with a festival intended, ironically, to get rid of pagan rituals, the event became a drunken, theatrical celebration of “fertility and love,” says Seipel. About the same time, the Normans celebrated Galatin’s Day, which sounds a great deal like Valentine and means “lover of women.” You can begin to see how Valentine’s Day evolved into the celebration of love that it is today. Thankfully today’s holiday is a shadow of its original self.

White Ceramic Heart Bowl, 3 inches, sold by JDWolfePottery, https://www.etsy.com/listing/97433389/white-ceramic-heart-bowl-3-inches

It wasn’t until the 13th century, according to History.com’s History of Valentine’s Day, that Valentine’s Day became associated with love and romance, also the same time in mid-February when birds were believed to mate. According to Borgna Brunner, in Valentine’s Day History, a UCLA medieval scholar named Henry Ansgar Kelly claims Geoffrey Chaucer is behind the mating birds story. In 1381, he wrote a poem that celebrated the engagement between Richard II of England and Anne of Bohemia. He linked the engagement, in his poem, with a feast day named “The Parliament of Fowls,” or the mating season for birds.

For this was on St. Valentine’s Day,
When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate.

Felt Love Birds, sold by TextilePlatypus, https://www.etsy.com/listing/253795817/felt-love-birds-pure-wool-made-in-canada

By the 17th century, couples in Great Britain began exchanging letters or handmade cards that featured lace, ribbons, cupids and hearts. The tradition spread to the U.S., where purchased Valentine’s Day cards appeared in the 1850s when Esther Howland began mass-producing them. The commercial side of Valentine’s Day kept growing until now, when 62% of couples celebrate it with candy, flowers and other items. Between candy, jewelry, and flowers—more than 220 million roses, in fact—Americans spend more than $20 billion on Valentine’s Day every year.

Dried Flower Heart Wreath, sold by roseflower48, https://www.etsy.com/listing/266459789/dried-flower-heart-wreath-spring-wreath

Although sellers and shoppers alike realize there is much commercial profit to be gained on Valentine’s Day, somehow that doesn’t seem to detract from the desire to celebrate the holiday. Year-round, hearts have become symbols of love, affection, unity, strength and even sympathy. But on Valentine’s Day, hearts represent a special celebration of love.

Leather Wedding Guest Book, sold by creating, https://www.etsy.com/listing/103277651/large-leather-wedding-guest-book-tree-of

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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